Saturday, 24 November 2012

HLF conference 2012: Part 1 Filming

Earlier this week I was at the Historic Libraries Forum conference, held at the Bishopsgate Institute in London. I thought it was an excellent conference, although I may be a little biased! ;-) Well, I certainly took away a lot of useful ideas, and I think, from the feedback we received, that others did too.

The day was structured with three longer talks in the morning, and five case studies in the afternoon, but I'm going to group them into themes for the write up. I've split this into three posts as there was a lot to take in.

1) Filming in libraries
The main speaker was Harvey Edgington, the National Trust's Broadcast and Media Manager, who gave us an overview of how the NT works with film companies who want to film on location at any of the properties. This covered an immense scope, from Pride and Prejudice (yes, both the Colin Firth one and the Keira Knightley one) to documentaries and fashion shows.Whilst I doubt most libraries can replicate the scale (5 or 6 new enquiries a day from film crews, and 3 crews filming every day), there was a lot of pertinent information about actually dealing with film crews.

Case studies were provided by Suzanne Paul (Corpus Christi College, Cambridge) and Naomi Percival (Lambeth Palace Library).

Main points about filming:
  • Filming can generate money (both for your library and the local area) and also raise awareness of your library. Remember that TV advertising costs a fortune so publicity like this can be fantastic.
  • Risks involved include the film being a flop and possibly having to close to users, causing alienation. Harvey mentioned that films don't necessarily show a property as it actually is, thereby causing disappointment amongst visitors - I still remember my teenage disappointment at arriving at Lyme Park to discover there wasn't a great sweeping long drive leading by the lake where THAT scene with Colin Firth was filmed. Suzanne recommended checking that the filming will fit with the brand and direction of both your library and the wider institution.
  • Don't underestimate the time involved. Film crews always run over and can also be very last minute about getting in touch.
  • Have a contract setting out very clearly what your charges are (at the discussion afterwards people mentioned amounts such as £250 per hour, or £1000 per day, with extra charges for filming outside normal working hours). It should also state clearly whether items are allowed to be moved or handled, use of lights and floor protection and that the film crew will be supervised at all times by a member of library staff. Don't believe the film crew when they plead poverty, just be clear about what your charges are (some places asked for a 50% deposit before filming could be agreed, most places demanded payment up front before filming could commence).
  • Encourage the crew to do a recce before filming, and to specify in advance what books they would like to film. Ensure those books are robust enough to withstand filming, and take precautions if something is requested a lot.
  • Check the film crew understands the contract - if they want "establishing shots" outside, do you have the right to grant this, or do you need to involve someone else in your institution?
  • Establish practicalities in advance, for example, if parking is limited nearby or if the access is via a spiral staircase.
  • Be prepared to be a talking head - if you don't want to be on camera, find someone in advance who is prepared to do it!
  • Take photos of the film crew at work, which you can then use to publicise your library.
  • Take care with copyright. Film crews tend not to understand this so make sure that it is clear in the contract that getting copyright clearance is their responsibility. Also watch out for potential copyright implications if they want to take close ups of books, objects, portraits etc. 
  • Make sure your library/institution is mentioned in the credits.
  • After broadcast, be prepared for people getting in touch demanding to know why white gloves aren't being worn. The British Library has some information about this to which people can be referred!
  • Review the filming afterwards to inform your future decisions. Was it worth doing?
This all backed up my own experiences of working with film crews. It isn't glamorous, but it can be worth it to get your library publicised. And, OK, I did get to meet Joanna Lumley once! I have also found lis-rarebooks and Twitter very useful for finding other librarians willing to share their filming policies (and horror stories).

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